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IBM Finding Business Uses for Virtual World 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-we-get-virtual-tps-reports dept.
jbrodkin writes "IBM has an unconventional take on virtual worlds for business use. Rather than strictly adhering to the laws of physics, IBM is letting its employees hold virtual meetings up in the air and under water. Employees are also being given wacky chores, such as kicking a giant boulder 1,400 kilometers. The virtual world, known as the Metaverse, has been in development for two years. Michael Ackerbauer of IBM says, 'I'd say more people are still finding it a novelty than a business tool. But ... if you build enough tools that they can use, they will come.'" IBM seems to be following a trend of involvement in virtual worlds, which we have previously discussed.
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IBM Finding Business Uses for Virtual World

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  • Whacky chores? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @10:48PM (#21774770)
    Next share holder's meeting could be interesting?

    "So Mr CEO, instead of letting the employees do something useful and making the shareholders some money you have them running around in pixel land kicking rocks? Even Microsoft and Zune makes more sense than that!"

  • Re:Whacky chores? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jacquesm (154384) <j&ww,com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @11:29PM (#21775096) Homepage
    Neal Stephenson will hopefully get a big lump of stock in the metaverse.
    Probably the end-point of convergence for all the media that we have today is something like the metaverse but I highly doubt if we have the technology to do it today, and that will likely cause a misfire like the early attempts at virtual reality.
    This kind of environment either works or it fails, there is no 'halfway there', immersion is not something you do on the cheap or with bad hardware. That just leads to frustration.
    It's interesting to see big names like IBM experimenting with this, it could very well be the end of the traffic problem if a fully immersive environment could be produced cheaply enough. Technically speaking the whole worlds commuting budget for office jobs is available for this to be made a reality.
  • by dave562 (969951) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @11:31PM (#21775108) Journal
    To be fair I absolutely love Snow Crash and think it was a great book. But come on IBM, get real! Why not invest in some of that nifty Cisco infrastructure that allows you to communicate with anyone anywhere? That seems a lot more productive than logging onto some virtual under water world so that everyone can conference with silly looking avatars.
  • by Unoti (731964) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @11:44PM (#21775202) Journal
    Take my zoo, for example, in Second Life. There's all kinds of crazy things there-- missles that lunach and drop parachuting ducks that throw snowballs at you on their way down, gophers that eat flowers, a giant elephant that juggles people, and so on. People are always in there laughing their asses off, riding the animals around a race track and generally having a good time. There's voice chat, and I can hear them laughing. The environment provides stimulus and gives the people something to do, think, and experience together. Compare that to, say, people watching a PowerPoint in a conference call. There's no comparison-- a virtual environment makes all the difference in terms of people "being" together when they're not geographically together.
  • Re:Whacky chores? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eln (21727) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:09AM (#21775340) Homepage
    It's not really about the interface, it's about them doing stupid crap like kicking boulders around or swimming around underwater when they should be paying attention to what's being said in the meeting.

    I have no problems with using virtual worlds as a venue for some sort of team building exercise or something, but I don't see how being in this environment would be useful for a meeting where actual information is expected to be absorbed. For meetings at a distance, you need something like the web conferencing tools that already exist, that allow you to present information without unnecessary distraction. If you give your attendees something else to do other than pay attention to the meeting, they'll do it.
  • by DrVomact (726065) on Friday December 21, 2007 @12:59PM (#21780606) Journal

    Heck, this could do wonders for working from home. You could log into the virtual office on Mount Olympus, levitate to your workstation that is set up on an otherwise inaccessible crag, and do your work. I don't know about you, but I could write great code a mile above the Aegean Sea, with eagles hovering nearby. If people wanted to talk to me, they could always levitate on up to my aerie...as long as their level is high enough to have the Levitate spell, anyway. I'd still avoid meetings, though—I don't care whether they're held on top of clouds or caves full of glowing lava, meetings suck.

    There would be some drawbacks, of course: for instance, my PBH would insist on an avatar that looks like Zeus. Ah, no problemo--I'll just hack the system so he looks like Goofy to everyone else...he'll never notice. While I'm at it, I'll make some...er...enhancements to the female avatars.

    Seriously, I'm sorta serious. The tech is getting better, and gas prices ain't going down. Sooner rather than later, businesses are going to have to make the adjustment to letting those who have jobs that can be done from home do so.

  • About the boulders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jscribner (546453) on Friday December 21, 2007 @04:07PM (#21783492) Homepage
    As metaverse is an experimental system, the boulder was merely created as part of our development work. We left the boulder in there figuring if we gave users a ball, they'd play with it. We wanted to encourage their exploration of this medium and thereby discover value. Right now, we're entirely focused on getting to the right questions about internal virtual worlds, rather than setting out to immediately seize upon business value.

    So far, the boulder has primarily been used to teach employees how to interact and cooperate in the world, but we've been surprised how much it acts as a focal point for people in-world. People are drawn together to play with it, without any direct benefit or goal.

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